Investigator says Clallam DCD director falsified documents
Clallam County official Sheila Roark Miller altered public records, an investigator says.
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Portland, Ore., attorney Akin Blitz on Wednesday sent investigator Ken Bauman's report on the investigation to assistant state Attorney General Scott Marlow for possible prosecution of Roark Miller, the only elected DCD director in the nation, Blitz said.
Blitz said he would not release Bauman's report. The Peninsula Daily News obtained a copy of the report's cover letter dated Wednesday.
Blitz said in the letter that Bauman — who “was careful not to make an ultimate decision, which he states is reserved for the proper prosecutorial authority” — identified seven charges that the state Attorney General's Office could consider against Roark Miller.
The potential charges are injury to a public record, injury to and misappropriation of a record, offering a false instrument for filing or record and misappropriation and falsification of accounts by a public officer, all felonies; and official misconduct, false report and public officer making false certificates, a gross misdemeanor.
“The investigative report stems from initial allegations that required an investigative review of Clallam County Department of Community Development management and employee morale,” Blitz wrote.
The investigation began with a Feb. 21 whistle-blower allegation by a DCD employee that alleged Roark Miller asked an employee to work on a Sunday by inspecting a job site where she had an active building permit and not record the overtime.
The complaint alleged that Miller “seems to be utilizing her power in order to get special privileges that are not granted to the public.”
As department employees were interviewed, the investigation grew into a larger review of whether Roark Miller used her office for personal gain, County Administrator Jim Jones said in an earlier interview, and allegedly ordered the backdating of a building-permit document so it complied with the water-use rules.
Blitz investigated an allegation that Roark Miller required one of her employees to backdate a building permit for a Sequim-area business so the permit applicant would not be subject to water-use rules for the Dungeness River watershed from Bagley Creek to Sequim Bay, which went into effect Jan. 1, Jones said earlier.
Attempts Wednesday to reach Roark Miller, who was attending two public meeting in Sequim on the water rule, were unsuccessful.
Marlow was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Blitz said Thursday at least two permits were investigated but would not discuss the details of those permits.
“There are at least two unrelated permits that were involved,” Blitz said.
In past interviews, Roark Miller has denied any wrongdoing and refused to identify the permit referred to by Jones.
Roark Miller, who has been advised by the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office to hire a lawyer, said May 31 that she expected the investigation would conclude “that we are doing a fantastic job down here and that there's at least one unhappy employee.”
Said Blitz in the cover letter: “Sheila Roark Miller's actions on Oct. 10, 2012 and again on Jan. 8, 2013 directly or indirectly resulted in the alteration, destruction or falsification by backdating Clallam County DCD documents and reduction of permit fees due from the applicant under circumstances that may have warranted a waiver of the 2013 fee increases but do not appear to constitute a justification or defense for falsification of public records.
“The facts revealed in this investigation pertaining to Ms. Roark Miller's management of Clallam County DCD need to be addressed by county Administrator Jim Jones and/or the board of commissioners at such time as the investigative report and evidence may be disclosed outside the criminal justice system without prejudice to any potential prosecution,” Blitz said in the letter to Marlow.
“Most likely the primary task is your determination of whether a criminal prosecution is warranted with regard to this transaction.”
Copies of three DCD employee complaints about the DCD or Roark Miller were submitted to the county Human Resources Department between Feb. 1 and May 30, according to a response to a public records request by the PDN that redacted all names from the complaints.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brian Wendt said all names in complaints that allege “improper government actions,” and the identities of those against whom the complaints are made, were blacked out as required by law to protect their right to privacy.
Bauman's investigation was conducted on behalf of the state Attorney General's Office, Blitz said.
Blitz said it wasn't Bauman's intention to recommend or not recommend charges.
“Once it became clear that a crime might have been committed, then the question is: Alright, what crime might have been committed, and what are the elements of the circumstances?” Blitz said.
Bauman, a former assistant U.S. attorney, also reviewed “circumstances related to funding and contributed dollars” for the Streamkeepers of Clallam County program, a stream-monitoring effort that was under the purview of the Department of Community Development until Dec. 1, 2011, when it switched to the county public works-road department.
Blitz decided that looking into issues involving Streamkeepers was beyond the scope of Bauman's investigation, Blitz said Wednesday.
If charges are brought against Roark Miller, the state Attorney General's Office would prosecute the case, agency spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said.
Blitz kept the state Auditor's Office apprised of the investigation.
Auditor's Office spokesman Matt Miller could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: June 20. 2013 6:08PM